Choosing a house, managing outdoor maintenance


Dear David,

We’ve seen almost 40 houses and are struggling to choose one. Help! – FROZEN

DEAR FROZEN: This sounds to me like a “failure to launch” situation, which I’ve run across a couple of times in my career. It could be that your home search is out of synch with the features you want, or that you’re looking for something that’s not realistic in your price range.

It may be time to push the reset button. Before I hit the home showing trail with new buyers, I always sit down with them to establish a wish list. I try to understand how their family works, their commuting habits, their pet situation and their true passions, which may bump something like the kitchen or garage to the top of their list. By getting to know each buyer in advance, I can focus on suitable properties, rather than dragging them through anything that pops up in their price range.

Today’s low-inventory marketplace adds a challenging angle to many home searches. For me, it reinforces the importance of knowing what you want, in order to avoid the frustration of chasing random listings. Stay focused on your wish list and refer to it often. It’s easy to get off track and before you know it, you could end up impulse buying something that bears little resemblance to what your family needs.

PRO TIP: Before you shop, make a wish list of your top ten features. When you find a property with eight of these, you’re home. Generally speaking, a “ten out of ten” almost always requires a bigger budget.

Dear David,

We love our bungalow, our neighbourhood and our neighbours. Yet with a snowy winter in the forecast, our kids think we should get a condo. We don’t want to be pushed out of our home by the weather. – ON THIN ICE

DEAR THIN ICE: I’m sure your kids mean well. I don’t have much information about your situation, but it sounds like your home still suits you, though the outdoor work may be getting a little overwhelming. Sometimes neighbours volunteer to help where they can, which is admirable, except that neighbours move and may not prioritize your snow removal if they’re late for work or on vacation.

I suggest you hire a maintenance company. Snow removal, eaves trough cleaning and lawn and garden care can all be accomplished with a phone call, and likely for less than you would end up paying in monthly condo fees.

PRO TIP: Hiring help when you need it can help you stay in your home for as long as it suits you. While it may seem hard to justify paying someone for work you’ve always done yourself, think of it as a treat you’ve earned after many years of home ownership. You’ll inevitably feel a sense of relief knowing these things are being managed. #AskDavid #Advice